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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Hotmail paradox

Today I discussed retaining the services of a consultant who offers a service to help budding authors turn their ideas into publishable books. One of my goals this year is to write my first full-scale book. I've written countless newspaper articles -- in fact, filled enough copy to cover several books -- but have never turned an idea into a published manuscript. I want to achieve that goal this year.

The consultant has marketed her service primarily to authors looking to get published. In my case, "self publishing" is rational because, after all, I am a publisher! My hope however is that having a third-party coach and consultant would help me discipline my effort and move things along.

We initially communicated last month, and I said "go ahead"; but I got cold feet when she instructed me how to send the first month's payment for services ($600 to her Paypal account.) Whoa! I just wasn't comfortable sending money off to someone without knowing her a bit better -- I wanted as well time to think about where I am headed with the project. And a month's hold would not interfere with my ability to move forward with the initiative.

She called me back late last week while I was at the OGCA conference, and it wasn't until today that I could return her call and engage in our first real conversation. She seems knowledgeable enough; credible, and she had reasonably good answers to my questions. But I wasn't totally sold. So I said: "Give me 24 hours, and I'll let you know firmly one way or another where we are going."

She rightfully probed for objections. I told her my experience with Bill Caswell, who offered (and has adhered) to a guarantee that we don't pay him until the consulting goals are achieved -- an admirable concept. Her answer: She can't do that, or even offer a money back guarantee if I'm not satisfied, but she could accept (if cash is short) a two week trial for $300 rather than $600 for the month.

Fair enough, but I still said I would take the 24 hours. I asked to confirm her email address, and she did -- at a account.

Ouch. In the book on marketing I planned to write, I would recommend that no one use a Hotmail free account for business emails. Domains are inexpensive to register, and email can easily be forwarded to 'hidden' accounts -- including, if you wish, a Hotmail address. But to use Hotmail as a primary account implies cheapness, smallness, and something lacking in professionalism.

So I told her this. And she responded she has had trouble losing emails on her outlook account. Huh? Most Internet service providers offer web-mail accounts to go with your primary domains/accounts, so there should be no risk in 'losing' emails because of outlook screw-ups.

I don't mind imperfections, but I am looking for inconsistencies when I am about to send $600 to someone. I won't totally rule against the consultant -- I will review her materials, websites, and presentation tonight before making a final decision, but this may prove to be a case where saving a little on the email account cost at last $1,800 in consulting fees.

If you have any thoughts on this matter to help me make my decision please feel free to email me at or use the comment function (you can be totally anonymous in commenting, though I moderate all comments to prevent spam from getting through.

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